Dr. Yi Zhang and her team recently raised $6.5 million to launch a “low-code” chatbot development tool.
Technology is changing day to day. One minute we think we have the latest and greatest product and with the blink of an eye, something that’s just a little better becomes the hottest thing on the market. While technology continues to expand, the boundaries of software and what it’s capable of are being pushed in the world of artificial intelligence.
That is the industry that Dr. Yi Zhang is making groundbreaking contributions in as the cofounder and CTO of Rulai, a customer experience chatbot development tool that just may be the future of customer service and save companies thousands of dollars.
“In academia, conversation agents are something we thought about even 20 years ago and Rulai came about because I felt that the market was ready and the investors are ready,” said Zhang. “Although we have been working on artificial intelligence technology for many years, in order to make the company and technology available, it’s not just the technology itself. You need to have the right product.”
As a Professor in the School of Engineering at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Zhang has spent years working with her team of researchers to grasp the art of natural language understanding, deep learning platforms, dialogue and multi-modal user interaction systems in order to bring Rulai to life.
Rulai, with offices in Campbell, Calif. and Beijing, isn’t the first company tackling virtual assistants but it does have that unique spark that separates from the rest. The bot enables customer managers to take ownership of the customer experience. With there being two different kinds of chatbot companies, one that allow businesses to build a platform, and the other for developers/programmers, Rulai falls in with being for developers that work with the client needs. “For business users, you don’t need to hire expensive AI experts,” Zhang said. “With Rulai, you can do it yourself because you have the domain knowledge.” Giving the customer ultimate control is the type of innovation experience that the startup brings to the table. Breaking it down, that is something that she is most proud of.
One is from customer experience, letting them control it is the innovation but to enable that innovation, we have to have breaks to other technologies. Having a huge impact in many industries such as healthcare, financial, manufacturing and transportation, the future of artificial intelligence is extremely bright,” Zhang said.
Conducting research and working with emerging leaders in some of these fields, Zhang said AI helps them to benefit with high profit margins. “If you think about the human history, we had the first industrial revolution that uses artificial power to stimulate the human model,” said the award-winning professor. “Now we have the second industrial revolution to have artificial intelligence to power the human brain. This is going to cause fundamental changes for human life.”
She also said it is hard to find an industry where you don’t use the human brain and AI won’t benefit from it.
Recently, Rulai launched a new “low-code” chatbot development tool. With GSR Ventures, Eight Roads Ventures China and Zhongwei Capital backing them up, Zhang and her team raised $6.5 million to do it. The product will allow customer service managers to develop chatbots that can perform tasks solely based on customer conversations. The catch? All can be created without a single line of coding.
Like many other Silicon Valley female entrepreneurs, roadblocks are created and adversity greets you at the front door. When asked if she encountered any unique experiences when starting Rulai because of her gender and ethnicity, she patted herself on the back by not letting the small stuff get her down. “I’m not a very sensitive person so there might be but I have to tell you, I’m a very special woman. Some say that I am different from what they expected and I say I am different from the very beginning.”